I'm fully aware that companies are out to make money and are not obliged to give their customers anything. But I was pretty happy with the Beauty Insider program and I was excited to be a VIB. I still have the welcome card they gave me in the store because I never used the coupon inside.
Here are the perks they promoted at the time as printed on the card:
- 10% off your next purchase
- Exclusive private holiday shopping party
- Holiday gift card - the more you spend the bigger it is
- VIB only beauty previews
- exclusive promotions and freebies
- VIB only hotline
It was around this time that I discovered that VIBs were getting monthly emails that I was not getting. I had somehow been unsubscribed from the mailing list. First of all, I would never unsubscribe to Sephora's emails. Second, I don't recall unsubscribing to Sephora's emails. But it happened, and I don't have a way to tell how or why.
The next month, I was back on the mailing list and I received an email about the holiday shopping party, but the sales associates at my local Sephora told me that they weren't really doing anything special that night, so I opted not to brave LA traffic to get to the store. I opted out of this perk completely by my own choice. What mattered to me was that I had received some sort of communication about it.
The only thing left for the year that had been advertised in the initial welcome email and card was the VIB holiday gift card. I hadn't even thought about it much until I realized I had one more xmas present I needed to get. So on December 1, I called the VIB hotline and asked about the gift card. They said that emails were being sent to VIBs on the 1st and 2nd of December, which is what I reported here.
Friday rolled around I still had not received my gift card yet, so I called again in the morning. The woman I spoke with said there were some technical difficulties and all the emails should be sent by next Thursday. I was very irritated hearing this but I needed time to gather my thoughts about why exactly I was upset with the gift card issue and the VIB program in general, so I hung up and started piecing together this post.
Two of my friends received their VIB emails already and told me that what they were getting was essentially a coupon for $20 off a purchase of $35. It's a pretty substantial discount, but it's not really a gift card if it comes with stipulations. I realize that by marking these as gift cards in their system, you can stack this coupon with a coupon code and potentially get something extra that way too if you purchase online. I also realize that Sephora is allowed to change the program at any time without notifying participants. Still, it feels like a terrible marketing and PR move to pull on their biggest spenders.
In addition, the coupon is good only through December 14th. Next Thursday is December 10th, which is past the date where an item will get to me with standard shipping if I need to order online, and I will have to pay for some sort of expedited shipping.
I certainly hope that I get the email before then because I do still need one more item. I'm always looking for a deal, but I have written off the VIB program as a big bust for 2009. It ended up being a lot of wasted excitement on my part. I like to think that when a company I have trusted and liked tells me they are going to do something, that they are more or less telling the truth. And I guess when I think about it, Sephora's initial marketing points either were true or what happened could be stretched to fit.
I hope that if you read this and you have felt let down by the VIB program, you take a few minutes to write Sephora's customer service to let them know.
I really, truly hope that 2010 brings about changes in communication between Sephora and their VIBs. I would like to see more consistent, accurate information being disseminated by the people who staff the VIB hotline, and I would like to see something done about the consistency of emails to VIBs.
My advice to women who want to be VIBs? Don't bother spending money you weren't otherwise going to spend at Sephora just to get in to the VIB program at this point in time. It's not that great.
Photo credit: Sephora.com